The Rosenallis team which lost out to Birr Town after penalties. Pic: Denis Byrne.
Despite the heroics of goalkeeper Paul Friel, who pulled off a string of unbelievable saves on the day, Rosenallis ultimately lost out on penalties to Birr Town in the Combined Counties Cup Final.
Birr Town 1
** Birr Town win 4-1 on penalties
In perfect conditions on a perfect playing surface in Tullamore, the sides were locked at 1-1 at the end of normal time and it remained at 1-1 after extra-time. That led to a penalty shoot-out but Birr converted four from four while Rosenallis missed twice from the spot.
Birr made a flying start to the game and their early dominance paid off when they opened the scoring inside the first five minutes when Johnny Corboy smashed the ball past Paul Friel from close range, giving the goalkeeper no chance.
Rosenallis eventually settled into the game and they came close to equalising with ten minutes on the clock. A long ball from the back broke to Ryan Fitzpatrick. His shot was parried by Conor Hogan and Declan Cahill reacted quickest to get the ball away for a corner as Rosenallis' Gary Dowling looked all set to score.
Rosenallis were now enjoying a purple patch and Mark Dunne almost got on the scoresheet but once again Declan Cahill was on hand again to make a crucial block. With the upper hand in midfield, Rosenallis pressed forward.
On the half-hour mark, they opened up the Birr defence when Gary Dowling put Mark Dowling through on goal but his powerfully struck volley flew just over the bar.
With half-time approaching, Rosenallis deservedly leveled matters with a spectacular finish from Gary Dowling. A dangerous corner whipped in by dead ball specialist Donal Lawlor was only half cleared by Birr and it fell to Dowling on the edge of the box. He showed remarkable composure to control the ball before drilling a volley to the top right corner of the net.
In perfect conditions for football on a perfect playing surface in Leah Victoria Park, Rosenallis came out stronger at the start of the second-half and created a couple of half chances but Birr gradually gained control in midfield.
However while Birr were on top and creating chances, veteran Rosenallis goalkeeper Paul Friel was in truly outstanding form pulling off a string of brilliant saves to keep his side in the game.
With an hour on the clock he got down well, low to his right to palm away a shot from David Cox. He also did well to punch clear a dangerous, curling free from Paul Egan with Declan Cahill bearing down on him.
Midway through the half, Friel when Nicky Molloy through on goal the centre-forward looked all set to score but Friel got down to his right and got a fingertip on the ball to guide it just past the post.
Apart from a rare Rosenallis foray forward, Birr continued to press. Nicky Molloy curled a free kick just wide before Friel was again back in the action, this time to deny David Cox who was through one on one.
Rosenallis almost snatched a winner at the other end and it took blocks last ditch blocks to deny Glen Shaw and Marcus Redmond.
The game went to extra-time where chances were at a premium. Birr created one great chance but Paul Friel somehow got a fingertip to a volley from Johnny Corboy that looked destined to fly into the top corner.
The game then went to the dreaded penalty shoot-out where Birr were clinical from 12 yards giving Friel no chance as they scored four from four. Unfortunately for Rosenallis, they only converted one from three as Birr lifted the Combined Counties Cup.
Birr Town: Conor Hogan, Ceilim King, Keith McEvoy, Rian Dempsey, Declan Cahill, Paul Egan, Barry Harding, David McEvoy, Nicky Molloy, David Cox, Johnny Corboy. Subs: Philip Evans for Barry Harding (95mins); Gavin Guilfoyle for Ceilim King (107mins); Dean Cahill for Keith McEvoy (107mins)
Rosenallis: Paul Friel, Donal Lawlor, Jack Friel, Darren McEvoy, Adam McDermott, Damien Gorman, Brian Fitzpatrick, Marcus Redmond, Paul Dunne, Mark Dunne, Gary Dowling. Subs: Glen Shaw for Brian Fitzparick (62mins), Donagh Cillally for Damien Gorman (62mins); James Jackson for Donal Lawlor (107mins)